Who's responsible for another major Phillies setback?


Who's responsible for another major Phillies setback?

He said he felt “really great.” He said he was “pain free.” He said he was in a “really good position to progress.” He said so a week ago.

On Thursday, Cole Hamels said something different.

The lefthander, who is dealing with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder, informed reporters in Clearwater that his body was telling him to “take a step back and start over.” How do you take a step back from feeling really great and pain free? That is some curious footwork.

“I felt good when I threw my last bullpen, everything was great,” Hamels said about last Saturday’s session. “But later that day and the next day, my arm felt fatigued. After 35 pitches, my body felt like I had thrown 1,000.”

That is a powerful and troubling statement. Here’s what you prefer not to hear from your 30-year-old front-of-rotation pitcher: That throwing a handful of pitches in early March makes him feel like his arm might fall off. That is generally bad news for a team that's counting on the same pitcher to help the Phils recover from last season's dreadful campaign.

Hamels said the best way to describe his condition is “dead arm or frozen arm.” You’re forgiven if the colloquialisms don’t anesthetize your concerns. You’re also forgiven if you don’t quite understand why Hamels said there are no plans for a cortisone injection or even an MRI.

How is that possible? How is it that the Phillies' front office isn’t insisting on extensive tests? Hamels is on a six-year, $144 million contract. For that kind of money, Ruben Amaro Jr. should load him into a car and take him to the hospital every time Hamels gets the sniffles. You can’t be too careful.

A week ago, Hamels trumpeted his progression. Now we’re left to talk about this unexpected regression. Or maybe it’s not so unexpected. This is how the last few spring trainings have gone for the Phillies. If spring is about hope for most teams, it has recently been something much darker for the Phils.

A year ago, Roy Halladay showed up in Clearwater and said he felt better than he had in a while. He imploded early in the season, had surgery, made a brief return, was eventually shut down again, and then retired. You might recall he had arm fatigue.

Last spring, Ryan Howard reported to camp and declared he felt fine. He had been dealing with Achilles and knee issues but said he was healthy. Then he played 80 games last season. He played 71 the year before. If you’re wondering, he came to spring training this year and said he’s ship-shape.

In February 2011, Chase Utley said he had some knee pain that “comes and goes.” He was listed as day-to-day, which was technically true. Days came and days went and Utley missed the first 46 games of that season. He played 103 games in 2011.

Utley also reported knee pain during spring training in 2012. Again, it was explained as a wait-and-see thing. Utley chose therapy over surgery. He missed the first 77 outings that season and appeared in just 83 games.

The observant have no doubt recognized a disquieting pattern. Player shows up for spring training. Player is dealing with some physical issue. Player says there’s nothing to worry about. Player suffers a setback. Nothing to worry about becomes something. And now here we are once more, mired in injury limbo with a younger player (relatively speaking) the Phils can ill-afford to lose.

“I think, ultimately, when people think shoulder and not being able to throw a baseball, they think injuries, tears, the pain indication,” Hamels said. “It’s not that. It’s really tired and it was kind of more difficult to go through the throwing motion, let alone try to throw something very competitive.

“The shoulder really doesn’t want to throw the ball the way I want to against hitters. My muscles just weren’t responding. And you have to listen to the way your body responds.”

You have to wonder how this continues to happen and who’s ultimately responsible. Because the way it keeps playing out, it feels like the Phils' medical evaluation protocol mirrors what used to occur in pick-up games in your neighbor’s backyard. Someone would hurt something, and then someone else would ask if he’s OK, and then the first someone would say yes. We’re at the point now where it wouldn’t be surprising if Hamels said he would try to walk it off or rub some dirt on it.

Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

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Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and Phillies great Jim Bunning is recovering from a stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bunning, who suffered the stroke Tuesday night in his Southgate, Kentucky, home, was moved from intensive care to a transitional care unit on Thursday night, per the report.

Bunning "has been provided skilled care that is leading him on the road to recovery," the family said in a statement Friday.

"The Bunning family wants to thank the first responders and medical personnel who have been treating dad," the statement said. "We sincerely appreciate the thoughts and prayers of all who are concerned about our father’s health. However, so we can focus our efforts on dad’s recovery, we ask the press to respect our family’s privacy at this time. We will let everyone know as his health continues to improve."

The 84-year old is one of two Phillies pitchers to toss a perfect game in the organization’s history. He accomplished the feat on Father’s Day in 1964.

Along with the Phillies, Bunning played for the Tigers, Pirates and Dodgers in his 17-year career. The righthander, who was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1984, won 89 games and posted a 2.93 ERA in six seasons in Philadelphia. 

After his baseball days, Bunning started a career in politics. He served stints in Congress and the U.S. Senate before retiring in 2010.

MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

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MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.

Lineup shuffle
Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.

Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.